Juneteenth, Energy and Ingenuity

The Poet’s Eye always enjoys the sights of Juneteenth, the BBQ and the Big Red and the watermelon. The celebrations are festive and full of blues and stirring black oratory of pride and patriotism. It’s also a bit of a sore spot for some Texans because it is the perfect symbol of our backwardness. It’s a holiday to celebrate the fact that Texas gets the news two years later than the rest of the world.

It’s hard to imagine in our world of instantaneous news and connectedness that a tid-bit of news like The Emancipation Proclamation could escape the notice of an entire state and especially one with ears as big as Texas, for two years. It wasn’t actually that Texans hadn’t heard of the Proclamation, they just didn’t agree with it and the myth that it was simply hidden from the poor ignorant, child-like slaves is quaint but news travels faster than one might expect in prisons, barracks and slave camps. It was not a case of ignorance but of Willful Ignorance. It is a human tendency to deal with situations we detest by pretending they don’t exist.

When Union General Gordon Granger stepped ashore in Galveston in 1865 and publicly proclaimed that the slaves were free in Texas, I’m sure it was not news, but it was now Official. It was the kind of news that if it happened today it would be covered by BET.

Willful Ignorance seems to be a perennial American political theme. It may have taken Texans two years to admit the existence of the Emancipation Proclamation but it took our country another hundred years to begin realizing its promises. Some of us still remain willfully ignorant about global warming and our country is willfully ignorant about the inevitable results of our continued addiction to oil. We don’t want to see it because if we admit that we see it we will be forced to do the inconvenient or uncomfortable things that are demanded to fix it, to break our addiction.

Should our race be lucky enough to have future historians and scholars, they will call this period of history The Petroleum Age much as we denote Stone Age and Bronze Age and Iron Age by their defining technological raw materials. Most of the miracles that we view as common parts of our modern urban life are directly connected to our use of oil. Our survival depends as much on this resource as the cave man’s did on flint. The industrial growth made possible by oil has supported the greatest explosion in human population since the advent of agriculture. We love all of the little niceties that a petro-economy provides from supermarkets to SUV’s, airplanes to air-conditioning. It’s not an easy thing to admit, that your lifestyle is based on something that will eventually bankrupt you, ruin your health and possibly make the planet unsuitable for human habitation.

The Poet’s Eye is puzzled to see how lonely Barak Obama looks, how forlorn like a spirit wandering in the wilderness and preaching to the wind about the need to convert our society to smart energy. It’s because he is a Prophet of the Obvious. It’s an easy assignment for any cable news rookie reporter to go out with a camera to any gas station and shoot somebody talking about how yep, we have to do something about our dependence on foreign oil while he fills up the side tanks on his RV. Everybody agrees that we are strung-out as Kieth Richards on the Gimmie Shelter tour. We’ve known it for forty years and there have been public declarations of our intention to change. I’ve heard a thousand junkies promise that they were going to quit…..right after this next shot. We’ve been unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary for change because no junkie wants to quit. It’s not until they hit bottom and find themselves face down in a greasy puddle that they acquire the resolve to change. The Gulf of Mexico may be our greasy puddle. Barak Obama needs to milk the pelicans like The March of Dimes milked tragedy-eyed little crippled children. And he needs to hoist aloft a banner in a crusade as great as Kennedy’s quest for the moon, to make our country an energy exporter by the end of the decade.

A good start would be to dedicate the 20 billion dollars that Obama shamed out of BP to R & D and industrial tooling to build thousands of tide turbines and wind generators and solar panels. This would stimulate all the right parts of our economy and would generate new jobs and technology. We don’t really have an energy shortage, we have an ingenuity shortage. It’s just like Juneteenth, the slaves are already free, they just don’t know it. If we made it a national crusade to harness our abundant sources of natural green energy, within a decade we could guarantee a century of prosperity for our country. A mobilization of this sort would require an independent government agency like NASA to coordinate the efforts of industry, labor, science, the military to create a new energy economy in our country. If we built tide generators and fuel cells with the same zeal and urgency that we made B-17’s during WWII, we could be exporting energy technology and equipment within the decade as well as creating millions of good jobs. Even if a trillion dollars in investment money were needed to prime the pump, it would be well worth it. Our junk habit is costing us upwards of a billion dollars a day in money alone, not counting miscellaneous environmental catastrophes. Freedom is within our reach, we only need to lose our Willful Ignorance and grasp it, Happy Emancipation Day!

Break the chain, oh yeah
Well, sho’nuff
See U in the purple rain
Emancipation – free 2 do what I wanna
Break the.. break the.. break the chain!–Prince

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